I Wish This Was

I Wish This Was is a participatory public art project that explores the process of civic engagement. Inspired by the limited dynamics of community meetings as well as the volume of abandoned buildings, Chang posted thousands of “I wish this was ___” stickers on vacant buildings across New Orleans to invite residents to easily share their hopes for these spaces. She also provided boxes of free stickers in businesses around the city. Infusing street art, urban planning, and ethnographic research, the project reveals the hopes, dreams and colorful imaginations across different neighborhoods, challenges barriers to participation, and provokes new insights for what New Orleans might yet become.

Responses ranged from the functional to the poetic: I wish this was… a butcher shop, a community garden, a place to sit and talk, an affordable farmers’ market, not lowering my property value, full of nymphomaniacs with PhDs, what you need, your dream. The project allows residents to provide civic input on-site and enables introverts like Chang to share just as much with their community. Part of the Ethnographic Terminalia exhibition and featured in the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, this project has continued on through the work of communities around the world. Those interested in using the stickers are welcome to print their own by downloading these files. Stickers should be made of vinyl, not paper, so they can easily be removed without damaging property.

2010, New Orleans, LA. Vinyl stickers, permanent markers, vacant buildings. 4.5″ x 3″ each. To those concerned about the subjunctive mood (“I wish this was” vs. “I wish this were”): Long discussions on the topic suggest that both usages are acceptable. This project is about striking up a casual conversation in the city.